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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #4-2005: KIMYA DAWSON, "LOOSE LIPS"
This was the highlight of her set opening for the Danielsens last month, but in recorded form its charms are even more distinct. Specifically, the thing that makes this song really great is that it could be like twelve different songs, and then it all comes together to be gloriously what it is. When it came on this morning I honestly thought it was Buddy Holly's "Rave On," which is fantastic, and then at various other points in the song it could be Billy Bragg or Andrew WK. And for the first few listens I didn't even catch the degree to which it really is a protest song, in some ways as strident as the ones that really get on my nerves, but it pulls it off in this fantastic way.
What's important here to notice is the mapping of the song. (Lyrics are here.) There's the first verse, which is short, and more or less nonsensical, and then a blast of the chorus (although "blast" is relative in a song that only has acoustic guitar and voice and very sparse bells), which we'll get to later, before we slide into the second verse, which is sort of the greatest thing ever. It goes on for four sections before we get back to the chorus, and not only does it work, it packs more in here than a song with a very simple melody and the same 3 guitar chords over and over has any right to. First there's a joke ("i'll drop kick russell stover / move into the starting over house"), and then, two lines later, a fairly serious line about Bush ("all this shit our president has got us in will go away") and a straight-faced ending to the section. Following this, we have this little section that kinda makes me cry when I hear it, in a very happy/sad way, Kimya listing off these bad things you can to do yourself followed by "remember that I love you," which in some people's hands could be cloying and self-important, but in hers it's nothing but honest: she does love you, really, and while the actual impact of that might be small, she knows that, and she's cool with that. It's a simple thing but really touching and lovely, especially when she ends it with this sort of comic understatement of "call me up before your dead, we can make some plans instead / send me an IM, i'll be your friend." Then we sort of ease out of this with a bit more seriousness and hopefulness, and then another just totally straightfoward political line, "i'll say fuck Bush and fuck this war," followed immediately by a poop joke: "my war paint is sharpie ink and i'll show you how much my shit stinks," followed by another sort of cheesily earnest line, "your thoughts and words are powerful", followed, again, by a leavening monkey joke, and then ending on a bit of nonsense, before we launch into the chorus.
Now, this chorus. This chorus is insane. This chorus is totally and wholly happy. It is about being happy and being with your friends and getting crazy and then getting sane and then getting crazy again. It would sound great like hair metal or like pop-punk or like disco, but it's just someone with her guitar, singing along with herself, and that is what it's chosen to be. But coming after this fantastic verse, with its series of earnest statements undercut by banalities, it becomes even more powerful, because you really do think Kimya wants to have a defiant good time, not just be defiant. Just as the "remember that I love you" section contains an admission of how little that means, so do the politics sections ring infinitely more true coupled with an acknowledgment of its own inadequacy. It is a song that knows its limitations but insists on its own loveliness, and it is lovely, and it does so many things so quick that you have to listen to it again and again, and you should, you should. This is exactly why I wish I could turn in my (admittedly meaningless) lists later, because man, this is best of 2004, no question about it. I would very much like to hear it covered. I would also like to hear it with a crowd that knows all the words and sings along as loud as it can.